Storm alerts were posted from the Texas-Mexico border north to Galveston Island as Tropical Storm Don moves through the Gulf of Mexico on track for landfall on the Texas coast early Friday.
Don, the fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, gained strength today, with winds increasing to 45 miles an hour from 40 mph, according to a National Hurricane Center bulletin at 10:40 a.m. Eastern time today.
The storm was 520 miles east-southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, heading west-northwest at 14 mph. Maps posted on the center’s website show Don making landfall as a tropical storm in the Corpus Christi area early July 30.
“Don is a small-scale thing,” said Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pa. “I think it is important for the energy industry to understand this will represent very little impact. There might be some brief, short-duration shut-ins and they may evacuate non-essential personnel, but the people who keep the pumps going will still be in business.”
Storms are watched closely because they are a threat to oil and natural gas interests in the Gulf, home to 31 percent of U.S. oil output and 7 percent of natural gas production. Coastal refineries account for 7.61 million barrels a day, or 42 percent of U.S. capacity.
Energy companies have begun taking precautions as Don approaches. BP Plc said it shut production at its Atlantis platform, while Anadarko Petroleum Corp. evacuated workers and prepared to shut down its Marco Polo, Nansen, Boomvang, Gunnison, Red Hawk and Constitution production facilities.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc closed its Perdido Spar platform. Shell, Chevron Corp. and Apache Corp. said they were removing non-essential workers from some operations.
As much as 4 inches of rain is expected in parts of drought-stricken Texas by the time the storm passes, raising the possibility of flash flooding, according to AccuWeather Inc. of State College, Pennsylvania.
“Current expectations are that Don will remain south of the producing region in the Gulf” because of the high pressure area in the South that has caused weeks of extreme heat, said Travis Hartman, energy weather manager for MDA Earthsat Energy in Gaithersburg, Md. “Ultimately, Don will bring welcomed rain to some of the drought-stricken areas in Mexico and Texas while also creating some additional chatter in the markets as it is the first relevant system of the season.”
A weather system becomes tropical when it develops cyclone characteristics, and becomes a named tropical storm when its winds reach at least 39 mph. A storm becomes a hurricane when winds hit 74 mph.
The U.S. hasn’t had a direct hit from a tropical storm since Bonnie went ashore in Florida in July 2010. The last hurricane to hit the United States. was Ike, a Category 2 storm, in Texas in 2008.
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